So Many Clothes, So Little Time

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Categories Household and Family Management, Mommy Issues, Perspective, Time ManagementTags , , , ,

What would you do if you had three days to yourself? Sleep? Read? Take the world’s longest, bubbliest, hottest bath? Go to Vegas?

My twin daughters, M and J, spent Memorial Day weekend in El Paso with their dad, stepmom, grandparents, and stepsisters. Daddy and Grandpa picked them up immediately after school on Friday, and Daddy and Grandma dropped them off at home around lunchtime on Monday.

I had that entire time to myself. After work on Friday, I went to a happy hour/pizza dinner with my coworkers to celebrate the successful completion of a key project. On Saturday morning, I went to the gym. On Saturday evening, I went over to a coworker’s apartment for game night.

The rest of my time off, I did housework. Don’t get me wrong. I did sleep in and take that long bath, too. My focus of the long weekend, though, was trying to get my house under control. I scrubbed my bathrooms and kitchen to sparkling. I tackled the nightmare that is my daughters’ room. I organized my pantry. I vacuumed and mopped. I put clean sheets on all the beds and washed the dirty ones. I unpacked a couple of boxes from our August move from El Paso to Central Texas. I washed a regular weekend’s quantity of laundry.

I folded laundry. And I folded laundry. And folded laundry. And folded laundry. And folded. And folded.

And I put the laundry away. Cool weather clothes got packed up in old bedding bags; that packaging is perfect for long-term storage. A few clothes that the girls have never worn, a precious few they’d outgrown, and a few tops I’ve outgrown went in the charity donation pile. Everything else went on a hanger or in a drawer.

I watched the hours tick by while I folded and stored our linens and clothes. I waved goodbye to the hours I’d hoped to spend baking thank you cookies for the girls’ teachers and after-school counselors. I lingered a longing glance on the time I’d hoped to spend reading. I spared, once again, the lives of weeds towering over me in the back yard. I kissed goodbye to the time I’d planned to spend redoing my photo wall. I’d hoped to frame some of the girls’ artwork and intersperse it among the photos.

I wondered whether we really needed all the clothes we own. One thing about having very small kids who don’t grow very fast is that they can wear the same clothes year after year. After 3 winters, our collection of size 4-6 tights finally kicked the bucket, with their knees racing the toes to the first to surrender to the holes that would inspire my child to yell, “Dead tights!!” Some of the girls’ oldest leggings have suffered the same fate.

My daughters are incredibly easy on their other clothes. Despite my best efforts to find loving homes for clothes that the girls never wear, my kids have enough clothes to consume most of my three day weekend. I don’t even have to sort between their clothes. They share everything but panties, and even that is because they have different preferences. J can’t stand to have elastic touching her skin, so she has to have Hanes panties with a fabric-covered waistband. M loves her days of the week panties. I picked them up on a whim, and had to turn around and get two more packages when she declared her undying love for them; they were the first panties she’s never expressed a fear of falling off.

I digress. They have one small drawer stuffed to overflowing with pajamas. Another bulging drawer houses panties and socks. We have a large dresser drawer for tops, and another for bottoms. Dresses, light cardigans, and dress up clothes fill the girls’ clothes rack. I don’t use the closet rod in the girls’ room because they wouldn’t be able to reach their clothes. Instead, a free-standing clothes rack from Ikea sits inside the closet at its shortest setting.
Drawers are filled to the brim with small clothes.

This doesn’t seem like an unreasonable quantity of clothes for two young American middle class children, but it’s nuts to take care of. It certainly beyond my capacity. My favourite quadruplet mama named her blog the right thing: Buried in Laundry. My girls might not be happy about it, but I suspect that we could get by with far fewer items of clothing. No, I know this to be true. In Bangladesh, where I grew up, it was the norm for all but the richest to receive two new outfits per year.

So why do we, in the developed world, spend so much of our time, money and energy on clothing? My 7-year-olds have already absorbed our culture’s adoration of a varied closet and would never wear the same outfit twice within two weeks, perhaps even a month. My ex-husband was horrified at how long I could keep my clothes. He constantly talked about chucking all my clothes and buying me an entirely new wardrobe, but I couldn’t go there. It seemed like the silliest expenditure of money I could imagine. Don’t get me wrong. I love window shopping and cute clothes. I love to wear clothes to fit my mood, to suit the weather, that make me feel confident and competent and pretty. I don’t need the cute clothes, though, and every new item is something else to add to the laundry insanity that’s already beyond my control.

What’s the secret to staying to keeping your closet manageable? How much clothing do your kids have?

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Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

3 thoughts on “So Many Clothes, So Little Time”

  1. The question is whether you want to do laundry every day (with far fewer clothes) or you prefer the bulk method like you described. I always consider the biggest benefit to having a nanny that I don’t have to do the kids’ laundry. Laundry is one of the most “invisible” woman tasks – no one appreciates or thanks you for it. I do thank my nanny because I would hate for such a thankless chore to go unrecognized.

    1. I think my issue is also my definition of “doing” laundry. I confess to washing and drying and never folding and putting away. I do (wash and dry) at least 1 load every couple of days, but I can let the pile of clean clothes on the couch grow, untouched, for weeks.

  2. I was going to write a post on how I address laundry for my family (husband, me, 18 month old twin boys) but here are the highlights:

    I buy only a few of each items that they need in their current size (3 pants, two shorts, 5 or 6 shirts) etc. Then I see how that works out for awhile. If I find that I am constantly without a necessary item, I buy more or that item. If not, then I don’t. This prevents me from overbuying on their clothes.

    I keep a small hamper in their room and in ours. I am procrastinator by nature and I find that if the laundry is full, I do it, but if it is not, then I wait until it is full.

    I try to only buy enough clothes to last 4 or 5 days (for the boys). This way I do not have overstuffed drawers and yet I am not forced to do their laundry daily. Same with our cloth diapers. We bought enough for 4 days and that prevents me from HAVING to do a load of diapers every day.

    I don’t fold the kids laundry (gasp). Starting from day one, it seemed unnecessary (and impossible to keep up with) to fold their onsies and I have found it is just easier to sort the clothes by type and store them accordingly. Short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, pants, shorts, pjs ect. each get a drawer or a basket inside a cabinet and I just lay the clothes their respective spots. Toddler towels hang as well as sweat shirts and hats. Sheets get a decorative baskets inside their closet and I just shove them inside. Putting away laundry takes minutes and even though the pile seems daunting when it comes out of the dryer, it is somehow more manageable knowing that I do not have to fold it all.

    I recently went through my clothes and cleaned out a bunch of stuff that I do not wear. Giving myself more room to work with has made it easier to put my own stuff away.

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